26 September 2023

Blood in the Water

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Reviewed by Robert Goodman.

By Jack Flynn, Pan Macmillan.

Jack Flynn’s debut thriller Blood in the Water is propulsive from the first page. FBI agent Kit Steele is chasing Vincente Carpio, a psychopathic killer, across the Boston docks. Not willing to wait for backup, she brings him down causing one of the tactical squad to comment “Remind me not to get on your bad side”. But this is not the end. Carpio as escaped before and his brother is keen to make sure that he escapes again.

From this opening, Flynn moves to Cormack O’Connell, head of the union and harbour chief, who uses his position to control all of the organised crime in Boston Harbour. His competitors are keen to move in on him and take control for themselves and they are receiving support from Vincente’s brother in return for their help with his escape plan. O’Connell has connections to Steele and slowly the two realise that something is going on but not before O’Connell’s daughter, Diamond, is kidnapped.

Flynn builds the tension well and his action set pieces, including the opening scene and a four man rescue attempt are well paced and engagingly written. Despite the reader wanting everything to work out for Flynn’s very grey and not so sin-free heroes, there is definitely a feeling of stakes here. This is also the advantage of this as a standalone novel – while the reader might hope every character they care about survives, there are absolutely no guarantees, and this keeps the pages turning.

Set during a brutally cold winter in Boston, Flynn also delivers a great sense of place. From the docks, to the bars, to the warehouses and islands, there is a real feel of authenticity. And every time a character ends up in the water, the clock starts ticking on potential hypothermia.

Blood in the Water is an effective stand-alone thriller. While some of the characters and scenes stretch the bounds of credibility, they are effective within the world that Flynn creates. The action is well handled and the tension ratchets up effectively to keep the pages turning to a (literally) explosive finale.

This and over 450 more reviews can be found on Pile by the Bed.

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